“Howdy! You must be the new toys!” plays a pre-recorded message from the mouth of Sheriff Woody, the pull-string cowboy protagonist of the Disney/Pixar Toy Story franchise, as wide-eyed guests enter the grounds of Toy Story Land.
This is where the magic begins at Toy Story Land, Walt Disney World Resort’s newest attraction inspired by Pixar Animation Studios’ Toy Story films.
Located at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the 11-acre park is a playground of imagination, appealing not only to kids, but also to adults who grew up watching the franchise explode in the mid-’90s.
PAX recently joined Air Canada Vacations (ACV) and the Walt Disney Company in Orlando, Florida, on an exclusive tour of Toy Story Land before it officially opened to the public on June 30.
The story behind Toy Story Land
Andy (the little boy who owns the toys in the Toy Story films) has been called indoors by his mother, leaving his toys – that includes you – scattered around his backyard.
As a visitor, you shrink to the size of a toy and instantly become immersed into a supersized, toy-filled world.
“We’re taking what we do best – creating magical experiences and combining them with the heart, humour and adventure of Toy Story,” Bob Chapek, chairman of parks, experiences and consumer products at Walt Disney Company, told media at the park’s dedication ceremony last Friday (Jun 29).
Surprising guests at the dedication ceremony was actor Tim Allen, who voices Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story films.
“I’ve been part of this great movie for 20 years…and you can’t ever imagine that somehow you’d be able to play in Andy’s backyard. This is amazing,” Allen said, with a grinning life-sized Buzz Lightyear character by his side.
Get ready to play big
Beyond the park’s entry there’s a model of cowgirl Jessie, standing high on a pile of building blocks, throwing a lasso of twinkle lights around Rex (Andy’s anxious green T-Rex) as the dinosaur carefully balances atop a tall Jenga tower.
Remember, you’re the size of a toy, which, in Toy Story Land, equates to the adult height of Toy Story’s Green Army Men, who can be seen marching, sometimes with drums, throughout the park. The troops also interact with guests, such as pretending to colour on people’s clothing using matching supersized crayons.
I, personally, was saluted by one militant sergeant for wearing a flower-print t-shirt because it was “effective camouflage.”
“At ease, solider!” I playfully shot back.
Two all-new family-friendly rides
Stationed prominently in Toy Story Land is the Slinky Dog Dash, a family-friendly roller coaster modelled after Andy’s floppy-eared dachshund slinky toy.
This ride includes a “power booster,” whereby the coaster stops half-way, reverses slightly, then catapults you forward – to infinity and beyond! – through a set of flashing rings and cosmic sounds.
Nearby sits Alien Swirling Saucers, a swirl-and-whirl ride (inspired by the prize Andy won at the Pizza Planet restaurant in the Toy Story film) where guests step into rocket ships piloted by Toy Story’s famous three-eyed green aliens and blast into “deep-dish space” while “The Claw” dangles overhead.
These rides join the pre-existing and recently enhanced Toy Story Mania ride, which has been a must-do attraction at Hollywood Studios since it opened in 2008.
Five years in the making
According to Ivan Chan, a project manager at Walt Disney Imagineering, Toy Story Land was nearly five years in the making.
“The challenge was scale – making toys larger than life,” Chan told PAX, noting how guests will notice carefully thought-out details, such as paint strokes on the building blocks scattered around Andy’s backyard.
Toy Story Land also taps into gaming nostalgia as blown-up versions of classics such as the Rubik's Cube, Scrabble letters, playing cards, dominos and Tinkertoys are utilized everywhere.
Advice to travel agents: book clients far in advance
“Toy Story Land is going to be huge,” Nancy Jeronimo, manager of product development at ACV, told PAX. “Book in advance so you can get the resort and room category you want.”
ACV’s Disney vacation packages (which are sold in Canadian dollars) can be booked up to 364 days out. Moreover, ACV offers eight direct flights a day to Orlando from Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Halifax and Vancouver.
If a Disney resort isn’t available, or within a client’s budget, there’s nearby “good neighbour” hotels, which offer valuable perks, such as complimentary transportation to Disney parks, the ability to obtain FastPass+ within 60 days of departure and extra magic hours.
When flying Air Canada Rouge, Disney-bound families can expect Disney-level service as the carrier’s crew undergoes training inspired by the Disney Institute.
“It makes a difference,” Selma Filali, senior director marketing and e-commerce at ACV, told PAX. “[The crew] know the mindset people are in and help them get the best out of their flight.”
For a complete list of ACV’s current promos on Disney vacations (including details on how kids can fly free), click here.
To discover the magic of Disney’s Toy Story Land for yourself, click here.